The Secretary General of the Department of Justice has said that having to continually defend his position would prove a damaging distraction from the important work that has to be done.

Brian Purcell told staff today that this could place both the department and the Minister for Justice in an invidious position.

He was writing ahead of the publication of a review of the department.

He said it could interfere with both the necessary change programme and important reforms already in hand.

In a letter seen by RTÉ News, he says he has come to the painful but necessary conclusion that it would be best if he were to be reassigned to other duties in the public service, but will remain in office until a new Secretary General can be appointed.

He also says he accepts that the recommendations of the Tolan report form a clear basis for the department to move forward.

Full text of Mr Purcell's letter:

Dear colleagues

The Report of the Independent Review Group on the Department is being published today.

I realise that the last few months have been difficult and unsettling for many of you and you should know that, while the report is critical of aspects of the way we carry out our work, it also acknowledges the huge commitment and ability across the Department.

While it is in the nature of things that much attention will be paid to the criticisms which the report contains, it also identifies many core strengths of the Department: professionalism; competence and resilience: high levels of loyalty and dedication to the Department, Minister and Government; accuracy and precision; experience and depth of knowledge across a complex range of business agendas; a sense of duty and obligation underpinned by strong public service values; a hard work ethic; and, an ability to react quickly and get things done.

The Review Group found that the Department has had many great achievements and made vital contributions to the country's peace, national security and safety of the public.

Very importantly, the report indicates that the review 'confirmed and validated the commitment, capability, capacity and expertise of the Department is an essential and strong base to build upon'.

But the report also identifies flaws and failings and that the Department, like many organisations, needs to change how it functions to cope with a complex and fast changing world.

While it is inevitable that a report of this nature contains some conclusions with which issue could be taken, I accept that the recommendations it contains form a clear basis for the Department to move forward.

I am, of course, conscious that, against the background of various controversies which have arisen, publication of the report will inevitably lead to renewed speculation about my position in the Department.

Although I would be quite prepared to deal with that, I believe that having continually to defend my position would prove a damaging distraction from the important work which has to be done.

This could place both the Department and the Minister in an invidious position and interfere with both the change programme that is necessary and the important reforms already in hand. The work we do, serving the Irish people, is far too important for that.

So I have come to the painful, but, I believe, necessary conclusion that in the circumstances which have arisen it would be best if I were to be reassigned to other duties in the public service. In the interim, I will continue in office until a new Secretary General can be appointed.

It will be with great sadness that I will leave a Department in which I have been proud to serve for 23 years and privileged to hold leadership positions for the past 10 years, as Director General of the Irish Prison Service and most recently as Secretary General.

I will miss most of all colleagues in what the Review report describes as a 'strong and busy Department'. You have been extremely supportive and I believe rank with the best in the Irish Public Service.

I know you will continue to serve the Minister well in her very difficult office and I sincerely offer my very best wishes for the future to her and to each and every one of you.